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I am Fabrizio, completely new in this forum full of experts, considering myself somebody who wants to take his very first steps at biking on the roads. I started to live in the Netherlands since 2 months ago and I completely fell in love with bikes. Now I really want to buy a good bike for biking on the roads but, being 100% Dutch (e.g. direct ;)), I do not know where to start from.

I would like to ride the bike twice or thrice a week, to make exercise. Considering the fact that I have a knee injury, this is the only sport I can do without getting damaged, besides swimming (but it bores me). It really motivates me the idea of travelling very long distances across the Netherlands, enjoying the landscapes, and eventually carry some things with me. As for me, I am 1,85m and my current weight is 82kg.

I have done some research and there are the so called touring bikes. The drawback I find on them is that they are not so fast, but on the other hand you can easily add some panniers and carry almost whatever you want.

On the other side, race bikes are lightweight, fast, dynamic but you cannot carry anything on them. It's just you, maybe your phone and pocket, and that's it. Please, correct me if I am wrong. Is it possible to add some racks and panniers on them?

So to wrap it up, I honestly do not know where to start from and what to buy. It would be nice to hear so experienced opinions about this topic based on your thoughts and beliefs.

Thanks for helping me out! Looking forward to hear from you.

Edit: I will provide a little bit of more information, as @john suggested:

  1. The idea is to bike mostly on-road, and eventually off-road. This means that almost 80% of my distance will be covered on routes, but I would not like to get in troubles if I face off-roads.
  2. I need to try drop handlebards. Honestly I do not know. I do not want to bike in a uncomfortable position, that for sure.
  3. I think I need to be able to fit mudguards.
  4. My budget goes up to 3000 euros.
  • I'm voting to close. There doesn't seem to be an objectively answerable question, here, and this is picking up a lot of unfocused answers of random advice to new cyclists. – David Richerby Feb 15 at 11:24
  • Product recommendation questions are generally a poor fit for a Q&A site since the answers quickly become out of date. There are a number of previous posts that will help you know what to look for when buying a new/first road bike, commuter bike and mountain bike. – Gary.Ray Feb 15 at 17:44

13 Answers 13

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Don't buy a €3K first bike! Instead, split your budget and get one for <1K. There are plenty of good advice here already (my vote goes to randonneur-type bike), and each of the suggested types can be had for that price. Don't aim at the highest specs: you don't know yet what you'll need. Just get something decent in the middle. Indeed, get to your local bike shop and talk to them (it must be more than easy in the Netherlands).

Ride it for a year or two. If you do it regularly, then you'll know what you need, and then spend the better part of your budget on a good new bike. If at all.

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20 years ago, this would have been exactly your choice - either a pure race bike or a touring bike, and very little in between. Fortunately there is a huge amount of choice in the market now, and you can find a bike anywhere on the spectrum between those two extremes.

A few questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • Are you riding just on road, or off-road as well?
  • Do you think you prefer drop handlebars, or flat bars - if you're not sure, you will need to try both
  • Do you need to be able to fit mudguards?
  • And of course, what is your budget?

If you can answer those questions then we can perhaps make more specific recommendations.

Incidentally, even if you don't have rack/pannier mounts you can still carry a fair amount of luggage - take a look at the new "bikepacking" style of bags....

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    Exactly my thoughts, outside trips where you need to carry a lot with cooking equipment etc, I see very little point in touring bikes these days. A gravel bike makes an ideal first bike, and can do a great job as a tourer with some bikepacking bags – Andy P Feb 14 at 11:27
  • And of course, what is your budget? Probably should be first. ;-) – Andrew Henle Feb 14 at 11:37
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    @john thanks so much for replying. I will provide a little bit of more information: 1. The idea is to bike mostly on-road, and eventually off-road. This means that almost 80% of my distance will be covered on routes, but I would not like to get in troubles if I face off-roads. 2. I need to try drop handlebards. Honestly I do not know. I do not want to bike in a uncomfortable position, that for sure. 3. I think I need to be able to fit mudguards. 4. My budget goes up to 3000 euros. – Fabrizio Piva Feb 14 at 12:00
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    @FabrizioPiva I need to try drop handlebards. Honestly I do not know. I do not want to bike in a uncomfortable position, that for sure. Drop bars are not uncomfortable. It's the bike geometry that may or may not be uncomfortable. A straight bar bike can be set up to be a lot more uncomfortable than a drop bar bike. Straight bars have a fundamental problem regarding comfort: they only allow you one hand position - and that can be terribly uncomfortable. Drop bars allow you many hand positions, which is incredibly important on longer rides. – Andrew Henle Feb 14 at 13:24
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    @FabrizioPiva Even within the adventure/gravel category of bikes there is quite a wide variety available, from what are essentially drop bar mountain bikes, to the other end of the scale which are like road bikes with big tyres (3T Exploro for example). – Andy P Feb 14 at 14:35
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I too could not choose between a road / racing bike or a touring bike.

I ended up getting a Trek 720 as it's a very fast for a touring bike but also more robust that most road bikes. As I got more into touring I ended up getting something dedicated to just that, but the Trek is still my daily rider.

enter image description here

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TL;DR:

  • If you want a bike that will take anything you throw at it, get a cyclocross bike.
  • If you're pretty sure that you'll be carrying panniers, get a touring bike.
  • If you plan to race competitively, get a race bike.

Your budget is high enough that you can get a high quality bike in whatever category you want.

You're not really going to the benefits of a race bike unless you get to a point where you're actually competitively racing. Those bikes are built for situations where the difference between first and second place is seconds, or fractions thereof. Based on your description of what you're wanting, I'd definitely recommend steering clear of them. Being built for speed, race bikes sacrifice a number of things that you're looking for. Namely:

  1. You most likely won't be able to mount full mud guards.
  2. Panniers either.
  3. You'll be limited to very skinny tires, which are not suitable for any real off-roading.
  4. The parts will be built with a preference for weight over durability. Again, probably not ideal for off-roading.
  5. The geometry of the bike is built for speed rather than comfort. It might not be uncomfortable, but any other bike will likely be more comfortable.

Any other type of road bike will fit what you're looking for. The other categories of road bikes are similar enough that, in any non-racing situation, your fitness is going to make much more of a difference than the bike itself.

Cyclocross bikes are good, all-purpose bikes. They can handle big, knobby tires for off-road, fenders, and usually have rack mounts in the rear, if not always the front (but swapping out the fork for something with mounts is relatively trivial). They're also built for stability, which happens to give the side benefit of comfort. I've even seen people do well at introductory to intermediate road races on cyclocross bikes.

Touring bikes are built for long days in the saddle, carrying lots of weight on panniers. They're beefier, have mounts for racks, and often have more spokes in the wheels and stronger rims. They typically have a longer wheelbase, which allows for steering stability with all of that weight. It also gives more toe and heel clearance so that you're not kicking your panniers with every pedal rotation. They have close to the same tire and fender clearance as cyclocross bikes, but might not have enough clearance for knobby tires. That depends on the specific model.

I don't have a lot of personal experience with randonneuring bikes, but it sounds like they will fit your needs nicely as well.

On a final note, you really do have a budget that will allow you to get a great bike, no matter which direction you go. Take those euros to the local bike shop, ask them to help you out, and be sure to spend your money there. You'll get far more benefit from trying a few bikes out than asking on a forum. It might cost you a little more than purchasing online, but it'll be more than worth it.

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    I’d agree you in cyclocross bikes a few years ago. Now, pure cross bikes have high bottom brackets and a short wheelbase, Adventure bikes have have more stable geometry but can still take wider tires. – Argenti Apparatus Feb 15 at 0:35
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As a beginner, and with an interest in longer distance rinding including some riding on poor quality prepared surfaces (bumpy tarmac, flat gravel), these are the features I would look for:

  • Relatively upright cockpit geometry
  • Relatively stable steering geometry
  • Ability to take wider tires
  • Mounting points for panniers and racks

Those are going to be known as 'adventure' or 'gravel' bikes. Exactly how wide a tire you need really depends on what surfaces you want to ride on. Good quality non-tarmac surfaces can easily be tacked with a 28mm tire, but rougher gravel needs 35mm or more, but be aware that wider tires are heavier and can have more rolling resistance.

  • As you get older you'll run into back pain with bumpy surfaces and an upright geometry (if that translates, as I assume, into a more upright sitting position). – Peter - Reinstate Monica Feb 14 at 15:43
  • 'Relatively upright' here means ~45° back angle from vertical, or perhaps a little less. – Argenti Apparatus Feb 14 at 16:30
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There are also the in-between bikes, sometimes called randonneur type bikes

An example is this:

enter image description here

They are moderately lightweight, but with panniers, mudguards and lights. The geometry is also more relaxed than most racing bikes.

For a budget of €3000 you should be able to get a very well-specced bike. Most likely out of reach are integrated hub gears like Rohloff or Pinion for extra durability (and weight), but it should get you far enough.

If you've only just started cycling, I would suggest to try out a lot of bikes, and to let a local bike shop advice you.

It might also be better to now buy a cheaper bike, and see how that goes. If you don't like cycling any more after a few months, at least you don't have a €3000 paper weight. Don't go too cheap either, but starting from €1000 to €1500 you can get really good bikes.

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This is a variation on John's answer. The most important of the questions he asks is about the street surfaces you'll ride. A race bike with its small, hard tires and stiff frame is most enjoyable on smooth tarmac. If there is any chance you'll ride on unpaved roads (forest, field) or cobblestone you should not get a race bike.

There is also a chance that a touring bike is more robust. I have broken a few bike frames in my life (both steel and aluminum, both (cheap-ish) race frames and cheap supermarket frames). It started to happen when my weight exceeded 80 kg and when I was probably logging >100km/week.

The other questions are not that important in my opinion:

  • Budget: If you want to spend under 1000 or 2000 Euros you'll find a good selection of both kinds of bikes. There is probably less of an upper price limit for race bikes because there is a market for professional racers; I'm not sure something equivalent exists for touring bikes. But this will be above the range I mentioned and therefore is usually not relevant for us mere mortals.

  • Handlebars: Nothing keeps you from putting You can put a straight bar on a race bike, perhaps with a different stem to adjust the seating geometry. As Apparatus mentioned you'll need a new set of brake and shift handles which will be comparatively expensive. See e.g. here. Edit: Since you are buying new anyway just google "flat bar road bike" to get an idea what's on the market. Handlebars can also be modified with bar ends or even aero bars (just picture-google the terms) to provide more different positions.

  • Mud guards, luggage rack: The non-professional race bikes below the 1000 Euro range I have had all had provisions for mounting them, and on one I went with overnight gear across France. Even if not: It's always possible to use clamps for mounting.

Then you seem to be concerned about speed. Well, in my experience personal fitness far outweighs bicycle differences. A good touring bike will be enjoyable also from a performance standpoint. Any luggage will further narrow the performance gap. A lighter bike will be most noticeable when accelerating and on inclines, but both is not common when touring in the Netherlands. Rolling resistance becomes secondary to wind resistance already at moderate speeds, so make sure to sit low and wear tight clothing when speed is important to you, no matter the bike ;-).

  • Re: Nothing keeps you from putting a straight bar on a race bike - That's incorrect. Drop bar frames have different geometry to flat bar ones, and buying compatible shifters is expensive. It's MUCH better to get the bike you want in the first place. – Argenti Apparatus Feb 14 at 14:00
  • @ArgentiApparatus True, you'd need different shift/brake combinations which is expensive. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Feb 14 at 14:05
  • You can put a straight bar on a race bike And you're also making the incorrect assumption that a straight bar is in and of itself "more comfortable" than a drop bar. It isn't. A straight bar has one hand position - all of them potentially uncomfortable. It's the geometry of the bike that determines the "comfort". A "comfortable" geometry with a drop bar is likely to provide more "comfort" than the same effective geometry with a straight bar. – Andrew Henle Feb 14 at 14:42
  • @AndrewHenle I didn't make any such assumption -- I reponded to John's list of criteria, saying that the handlebar shape is not a primary concern (but it may be a $200 issue, as it turns out, because of the brake/shift combi). As an aside, there is more than one position on a straight bar. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Feb 14 at 14:58
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Bear in mind that a good quality touring bike is quite light and "efficient". The difference between a touring bike and an all-out racing bike, in terms of obtainable speed, is only of significance if you're actually racing professionally (or at least as a very competitive amateur).

Update: In my haste to make this post I failed to give my favorite answer, echoing Zeus -- if you're relatively new to cycling the best sort of bike to buy is used. Get something that seems to fit your immediate needs/desires, but which will not be so expensive that you will be resistant to replacing a year from now, when you know better your true wants and needs.

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I acknowledge this is not directly and answer to the question, but feel its worth adding....

With a 3KEruro budget, you should focus your effort on finding a good LBS (Local Bike Shop) to get advice from. Shop around, ask around, settle on one and let them know your a serious buyer not a tire kicker. Spend the time with them it takes, looking at whats available and test riding various styles of bikes. Insist on right of return - its more a test of if they stand by their product and advice. If they are confident in their service, they won;t hesitate to allow you to return it if its not right.

Leave money for other thins after the bike purchase. You will want shoes, tools (minimum roadside emergency tools) and cycle specific clothing and helmet. Some you can defer till you start riding more seriously.

Choosing a bike, be aware the chances of getting the perfect bike for you the first time are relatively low. Be careful about buying the bike for what you may be riding sometime in the future - buy the bike for what you will be riding today. You can always upgrade (or as many do, not sell and own more than one bike :) - ask the shop if they do trade ins.

As far as speed - unless you are racing its mostly unimportant, the longer the distances you ride, the more important comfort is. The shorter distances you ride the less difference speed makes. If a fast bike is uncomfortable you will probably stop more often for longer and enjoy the ride less. Focus on a bike that is 'fast enough' and comfortable.

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Why not a medium price touring bike, ride it for a while possibly use it as a training bike in the winter. When you've discovered what range of gears/tyres and general accessories suit you, go and spend some money on a road bike with the right geometry for you - that's assuming that you find you have some speed in your legs.

A touring bike can still be used on time trial courses, even where you are the only competitor. ;)

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I have been touring a lot in extremely varying terrain, including the netherlands and mountainpasses where roads are only to be found on the map. Our garage has more than 40 bikes of variyng types and they are all OK (except for the fatbikes). I'd say the bike itself doesn't matter much, as long as you are comfortable on it. (can't say much about handlebars as I don't use them much)

To me, the most important part is tire selection. No gain in speed from a lighter bike will ever make up for a single flat. We swear by schwalbe's marathon plus series, the normal ones or the touring series depending on how much you go offroad (both are fine on packed dirt). On our 5000km trip across the US we had 20 marathon plus tires and 3 nobrands that came with one of our bikes (~1500 USD). We had a total of 13 flats, 10 of which were on the nobrand tires.

Schwalbe also has their marathon winter series which in my experience works very well even on polished ice here in Norway, although I am unsure how much it matters to you

  • "can't say much about handlebars as I don't use them much" Buh? You did most of your 5000km across the USA without using the handlebars much? – David Richerby Feb 15 at 11:23
  • Also, I don't really understand how your post relates to the question, though the question itself isn't very clear to me. – David Richerby Feb 15 at 11:25
  • @DavidRicherby I wanted to express that the choice of bike doesn't matter much as long as you feel confortable sitting on it. On the other hand, I believe tire choice is really important and recommend Schwalbes marathon series. Yes, most of my last 7000km has been with my hands in my pockets. It gives me a better view of nature and is a much more relaxing posture to me. Because of this, I can't comment on how comfortable drop bars are compared to normal handlebars. – Daniel Vestøl Feb 16 at 21:30
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Definitely do not use your budget. For 600 you could get two used bikes of different type (or a single very good one), figure out what you want to do, and then sell them and buy a higher spec bike (if you feel you need something more).

You should also use some money to get good quality accessories, like lights, clothes, cycling shoes / pedals, which will be transferable to anything you decide to go down with. Having the right clothing can have a huge effect on how enjoyable a ride is, possibly as much as the bike itself.

I think a Cyclocross bike might be a good start based on your description.

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I have rode fat bikes, classical ('90) mountain bikes, recent (29er) mountain bikes, dirt bikes, a couple of race bikes, utility/touring bike with central child seat, old ('80s and '90s) race bikes, and probably a few more.
Race bikes are most certainly NOT recommended for a first bike.
(neither are fat bikes, but they don't enter in this discussion)

A race bike is usually optimized for rider discomfort, with speed as a secondary consideration. There's a big issue with the surrounding awareness (looking backward is difficult on a race geometry), balance is compromised at low speeds, the handlebars are too low and you ride a lot with a significant part of your weight on your hands. Climbing performance is usually compromised by gear selection (not that it would matter too much in Netherlands), grip on less than perfect asphalt is less than certain, braking tends to lock the rear wheel, you'll have a lot of weight on your hands when braking (it still surprises me from time to time). Thin, high pressure tires are prone to flats (more than 10 in some 3000 km). Huge pressure in tires make the ride unforgiving (I have 23mm tires but the recent Paris-Roubais was won on 30mm tires).
So, don't buy a race bike. Maybe a cyclocross bike (CX) will be fine - a more natural position, but still with drop bars for an aero position. Bigger tires will be a lot more comfortable, probably much more resistant to flats, with care you can ride it anywhere a mountain bike can go (just slower), disc brakes are better in the wet.
I can't suggest you any make or model though - but ideally you should buy one only after a longer ride - a race bike that's perfect in a 10 minutes check will make you hurt after the first full hour.

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    Race bikes are NOT optimized for for discomfort, in fact manufacturers put in significant effort into reducing this (look at the latest Trek Madone with isospeed decoupler for example). It is NOT difficult to look backwards, it is in fact easier, as you can both look round/over your shoulder or under your arm. Balance is NOT compromised at low speeds - it is perfectly possible to do a track stand on a race bike. Braking only locks the rear wheel if you are clumsy, and thin high pressure tyres are NOT inherently prone to flats (i've had 1 in the last 16000km) – Andy P Feb 14 at 15:11
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    @AndyP The discomfort part was obvious sarcasm which I enjoyed. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Feb 14 at 15:45
  • @AndyP: Looking back is easier on a city/mountain/fat bike than on a race bike. I find balancing easier when staying upright, and on a race bike you can't. It's perfectly possible to do a track stand on a race bike, but after 3000km on a race bike I can't (while I can on a fat bike or MTB). Balance is not compromised at low speeds if you're an accomplished rider, which the original poster is not. And while thin, high pressure tires are NOT theoretically more prone to flats, my personal experience suggests otherwise. By the way, what tires/tubes are you using? They're obviously great – Calin Ceteras Feb 14 at 16:01
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    My initial thought on reading your post was 'you need a better bike fit'! – Argenti Apparatus Feb 14 at 22:18
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    *sigh* If you mean that road bikes aren't suitable for riding over tree roots and in rivers, maybe you should have said that, instead of saying that they have sketchy grip on anything "less than perfect asphalt"? If you meant that road bikes might lock the rear wheel when emergency braking, maybe you should have said that instead of saying that braking "tends to lock the rear wheel" (i.e., that it's normal for normal braking to lock the rear wheel)? And it's easy to lock the rear wheel of any bike when emergency braking. – David Richerby Feb 15 at 14:30

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